Here are seven words I don’t hear very much from the kids at my school:
“Please.” “Excuse me.” “I’m sorry.” “Thank you.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love these kids. They are wildly imaginative, fiercely expressive, boisterous, energetic, bursting with joie de vivre, insightful, surprising, affectionate, caring, musical and more. But Miss Manners Poster Children they are not.
We’re working on it. While we all recognize that the parent pleading “What do you say, dear?” and the kid hiding behind the legs reluctantly performing with the mandatory “thank you” seems to have a dash of insincerity to it, we understand that it’s important. “We” being my generation, those kids who put up Lenny Bruce and Jimi Hendrix posters on their college walls (but none of Ann Landers and Emily Post) and then finally grew up and realized that etiquette is a social glue that feels good and makes the day more pleasant.
But in the last couple of weeks at school, I’ve noticed more than once that at the end of class, a child will come over, look me in the eye and say “thank you.” I’m talking about a 5- year old, a 4th grader, an 8th grader. And because I know that it didn’t come from obligation or habitual good manners, it meant so much more to me. Somehow I helped create an experience that touched them and they felt moved from within to let me know.
In the increasingly insane educational world of “SLOs, GLEs, paper/pencil, pretest/posttest, video or audio or photo documentation, digital products, checklists and rubrics, report cards and wall charts” (a list I recently saw when a music teacher asked on Facebook how his colleagues assessed their students), a kid saying a sincere thank you after class tops it all. It lets you know that he or she got what they needed and you’ve done your work well.